By Carol Round —“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden”—Matthew 5:14 (ESV).
Her bright, sequined clothing captured my attention. So did her jewelry. Wrapped around her left arm had to be at least a half-dozen sparkling bracelets. Sitting to my left in church, the girl was seated in a wheelchair. A man, whom I assumed was her father, sat in the pew next to her.
During our church’s short meet-and-greet “someone you didn’t come to church with,” I met them. When I walked over to shake their hands, the girl looked down, as if she were shy. She didn’t even acknowledge me when I said, “I love your glittery clothes.”
I introduced myself to her father. He introduced me to Audra, saying, “She’s hard of hearing.” Leaning down so I could get closer to Audra, I repeated my words, adding her name this time. Raising her head, she smiled at me.
A Smile to Light the World
Audra’s smile revealed an inner light, an unspeakable joy. It was then that I noticed she had Down’s Syndrome. But it wasn’t the first thing I noticed about her.
Although it was her clothing that first drew my attention, it was overshadowed by the radiance emanating from her spirit. Her smile grew as she grasped my hand and stood up.
Wrapping her arms around me, Audra hugged me tightly. Then, this precious girl kissed my cheek. Drawn to her sweet spirit, I replied, “You are so beautiful, Audra,” and I returned her hug. Smiling, she replied, “I love you.”
The World Needs More Love
John 3:16 is probably the most well-known Bible verse in the world. Even those who haven’t read the Bible have, I’m sure, heard it. To understand the magnitude of God’s love, we only need meditate on this verse.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” is the essence of God’s Word. God loves us so much that He took on human form, came to earth as a baby, and then faced a bloody ending on a cross. He did that for you. He did that for me.
It may be hard to grasp the magnitude of God’s love if we haven’t experienced it. When His followers—us—don’t exhibit the love of Christ when dealing with others, it’s no wonder there’s so much dissension in the world today. American evangelist Dwight L. Moody once said, “The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy.”
The World Needs More Audras
Back to Audra. My encounter with my new friend didn’t end when the service continued. As our praise team led us in song, Audra joined me in my pew. Grabbing my left hand, she raised our arms in the air and swayed to the music.
After a few minutes, Audra kissed me on the cheek again. Leaving my side, she entered the pew ahead of me and hugged an older woman before reaching for her hand and raising it in the air. Before returning to her father’s side, Audra hugged the woman.
Later, as I thought about Audra, Matthew 5:14 came to mind. Audra’s loving nature was a light to our congregation that morning, a shining example of God’s unconditional love.
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Photo credit: wycliffeassociates.org